How to Find the Time You Need Every Week to Develop Your Career Skills
Want to move ahead in your career? Here’s how: become a daily learner, with a hunger for new knowledge and ideas that you apply to your profession (and/or your job search).
Easy to say, right? The hard part is putting it into action and finding time to learn and improve your career skills.
I can vouch for the need for learning on two levels. One, as a career coach and former recruiter, I can tell immediately which job candidate seems current, and who’s trying to rest on their laurels with knowledge from five years ago. Two, as someone whose mission it is to help people continuously evolve professionally, I “drink the kool-aid” and invest in weekly learning time, myself. And every week, I’m glad I did; I can immediately leverage what I’m learning and I don’t worry about being blindsided by external changes in the landscape.
As someone who runs several businesses, who has young kids that I pick up at 3PM from school, AND who spends 5-7 hours a week actively learning (in addition to what I learn while I work), it’s an effort to make sure I build in that “extra” time. So, here’s what I can share about how you can create a weekly learning habit, too. If I can find the desire and time to do it, so can you!
Here are tips for integrating ongoing learning into your week:
Decide that learning will help you and the ROI is worth it. Those who do make time for learning new career skills know that, often, what you learn in one arena can be applied across many new areas. You also see that when you bring learning to bear in your professional life, new knowledge pays off fairly quickly for your effectiveness and reputation. You realize there’s always more to learn, no matter how much you already know.
Commit to making time: I’m guessing that you instinctively thought about your lack of time as the reason you may not spend enough time during the week on continuous learning. Of course, if learning’s never a priority, you can soon find yourself way behind your peers. I make the time in various ways throughout my day (with plenty of down time and rest/recharge activities too):
– learning while my mind’s fresh, early AM, with a cup of coffee and one online course module before my kids get up;
– listening to work podcasts in the car;
– absorbing new information during “down time” moments during the day – when I’m waiting on hold, sitting in a waiting room, or waiting for food to cook, I turn to my “save for learning” online folder
– Choosing one of my stack of business books that I read before bed instead of watching TV;
– Switching freely between “learning” and “creating” modes- if my mind’s feeling stuck creatively, I switch modes and open up an article or video I’ve saved, and once my mind’s fresh again, I switch back to creating
Build a stack of go-to learning resources that span a lot of topics: If you curate articles, books, resources, videos and other learning modes on a regular basis, you’ll always have something at the ready when the opportunity presents itself. That way you don’t have to find new learning tools in the moment (which may lead to some mindless scrolling instead); they’re already ready for you. Find a way to organize/store/find resources when you want them. That means investing some up-front time (downloading podcasts, acquiring books from the store or library, saving online articles, signing up for self-paced courses, etc.).
Sign up for training programs: Speaking of training, some learning’s best when it’s less structured, and some things are meant to have a formal path to bolster your ability to apply the concepts. There are some things that you cannot glean from books or articles alone. These programs get you out of your comfort zone and force you to focus on the material, and if you’ve paid out of pocket for it that focus goes up exponentially.
Disseminate your learning: Whether it’s a LinkedIn share, a lunchtime conversation with a colleague, a post on an online forum, or a mentoring conversation with someone you’re helping, sharing your career skills helps you cement it yourself (and helps your professional reputation while you’re at it).
Speed up your intake of knowledge: Learn to absorb information more rapidly. You can teach yourself when to quickly scan something for its key points, and when to stop and do a deep dive into the material. You can watch online course videos at 1.2x (or up to 2x) speed, which breezes through the “ums” and “ahs” of the presenter. You can often read transcripts of podcasts or interviews at a quicker pace than listening to them live. You can match your activity (reading/watching/listening) to the safest and most efficient co-occuring activity (for example, sitting in a doctor’s office).
Find a guide: Sometimes hiring someone who can get you there faster, who’s learned from experience and who can help you get results faster will be much more effective than trying to learn it yourself. You can find a coach (we’ve got career coaches/counselors here), tutor, co-worker, mentor, consultant, or sounding board (paid or unpaid) who can help speed up your knowledge acquisition.
While some of these tips may seem obvious, the real trick is committing to learning in the first place and then building time into your day to actually follow through.
Ongoing weekly learning (and the associated time, cost & effort) is an investment well worth making in yourself; you’ll see the payoffs in your career, and you’ll thank yourself later for building your skills today.